It is approaching my husband’s seventh year as a sailor for the Royal Australian Navy. One thing I have learnt during these six years of our relationship is how I have developed resilience, patience and a thick skin. Because let me assure you, that it has not been smooth sailing.
It began six years ago in Melbourne. Where Chris and I chatted online, met and we pretty much instantly fell in love with one another. Chris was approaching the end of his trade training period and during our first date was quick to let me know that inevitably he was going to move. There were a couple of destinations on offer and Perth was his first choice. I had an open mind and was willing to see where it led. When the time came and he was arranging the move I jumped on board. Shortly after, I gave up my job, said goodbye to my family and committed to moving to a new state.
We had moved, settled into our first home, I got a new job and yep I fell pregnant. It was completely unplanned. We were just a couple of horny people who sucked at contraception. Again, we rolled with the punches (sometimes figuratively as those hormones were wild) because it would be unavoidable that he was posted to a ship. Not long after I said farewell to Chris when I was about half way through my pregnancy with Lucas. Chris went on his first overseas trip to support those requesting early leave, and I think he was gone for about five or six weeks. Peace of cake!
It wasn’t until Lucas was born that shit got real. Chris missed out on so many of Lucas’s milestones, especially during his first year. Sadly he didn’t hear Lucas say his first words, or see when he first crawled, and the worst was his first birthday. Because Chris was absent from his life, even when he was home Lucas only ever wanted me which just put further strain on their bond.
So to put things into perspective, there is a belief that family members are only absent during a deployment. Wrong! The preparation can be just as long as a deployment. At the beginning of 2014 Chris was absent from his family on and off for a total for 18 months. Yes 18 months! During this time there were weekly running’s, a combination of training drills and assessments. Chris and his crew were sent to search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, making matters worse. As it was a delicate matter there was little to no communication. Families would only receive a weekly email from the captain of the ship to advise that morale was high.
Later that year, they deployed for the middle east and three weeks into the stint I became incredibly ill. On my 30th birthday I developed cholecystitis and pancreatitis caused by a gall stone attack. I had been having these attacks for a couple of years, but oddly thought it was just a bit of heartburn so I never addressed it. I was hospitalized after tests concluded that I was really sick, and I was a mess. There was little to no family support and I needed to care for a demanding two year old. I was knocking on my neighbours door in tears because I needed help, and once I was spoke with the surgeon it was inevitable that I would need surgery.
Now began the daunting task of getting Chris sent home. I can assure you that it was the most stressful thing I had ever experienced. We were told over and over again that it was not considered serious enough to warrant a flight back home. I was on a strict no fat diet because I could not risk another episode, because lets face it pancreatitis is something you can’t mess with. I lost several kilograms and developed an anxiety disorder.
Chris was doing everything at his end, but no one was listening. He has even threatened to get drunk in every port just so that he could get sent home. I remember speaking with a woman from DCO’s hotline. For reasons I don’t know said to me that my friend’s would feel honoured, yes honoured, if I asked them to care for both me and my son. My mouth gaped in disbelief, did she actually say that to me? I wanted my husband and it was his responsibility to care for Lucas and I.
It wasn’t until I received support from a Chaplain that the seriousness of the procedure was fully realised. Thankfully Chris was sent home, I had my surgery, and thank the heavens that he was posted home as I spent three days in ICU and later transferred to another hospital for a follow up procedure. Since then I have not been able to cope with my anxiety, and now require medication to keep it at bay. Another stress inducing episode of Navy wife life, is the Navy wives.
It was like high school all over again, friends left as soon as they came. And what I mean by that is when your husbands were no longer working together on a ship, friendship was void. This had happened several times, it was so bloody upsetting and infuriating. I am serious about friendships and lets face, it we’re all far too mature for the dramas that lie within the circle of their lives.
Chris spent further time away in 2015, and during this time we started having our first home built. Something always went wrong when he was away, it was like Murphy’s Law or something. I always relied on the support of other people to ensure that the house was up to scratch. Another hole to add to my bucket of anxiety. Thankfully Chris has now been posted ashore for over twelve months, and good thing too otherwise we would not have been able to conceive with our gorgeous little man Flynn. Not long now until discharge and we can gain better control over our lives.
That’s all for now.